Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

McLaren-Mercedes found guilty!

The last week has seen much written about the verdict and 100 million dollar fine and loss of Manufacturer’s Championship points as punishment given to McLaren-Mercedes in the Ferrari dossier affair. Until the full context of the findings was released, I was under the impression that there had been a witch-hunt, a travesty of justice. After reading the FIA report, I have changed my mind.
However, I do not believe that Ron Dennis, the boss of McLaren-Mercedes to be guilty. I consider him to be an honorable man, but others in his team are not so honorable. The problem is that in any large organization, the man at the top cannot possibly know everything that goes on inside that organization - but, unfortunately, the buck stops with him.
Three employees of the McLaren-Mercedes organization were directly indicated and also indicted. Mike Coughlan, the chief designer, and drivers Fernando Alonso and Pedro de la Rosa. Coughlan has been suspended by McLaren for some months, but what should be done about Alonso and de la Rosa, who have brought McLaren into disrepute (as well as the organization copping huge fines)? Remember too, that de la Rosa and Alonso were given assurances by the FIA that the information they might give the enquiry would not be used against them (by the FIA), for them to spill the collective beans.
If I were Ron Dennis, and I am glad I am not right now, I would suspend both Alonso and de la Rosa forthwith. You do not need a viper in your bosom. The problem, of course, will be that the press (and particularly the Spanish media) would then state that McLaren was favoring the young British driver Lewis Hamilton (who incidentally knew nothing of the use of Ferrari technical details and race information), and thereby probably handing him the world championship on a plate.
It will be interesting to see McLaren and Ron Dennis’s next move.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked you to look at this photo, taken at Spa. I wanted to know what were the cars? They were Borgward Isabellas, which if I remember correctly, had a swing axle rear end, similar to the early Volkswagen. Trying to correct that amount of oversteer would have been more than exciting!
So to this week. What car was called the ‘sticking plaster’ car?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected] Good luck!


Will we get the Aveo hatch?
The Aveo hatch was revealed late Monday by Chevrolet Europe ahead of its official public debut at the Frankfurt motor show on September 11 and its European release in March 2008.

Aveo Hatch

Taking its name from the Kalos sedan, the Aveo hatch will replace the Daewoo Kalos, which is known in Europe as the Chevrolet Kalos and in Australia as the Holden Barina. Confused? Don’t worry, so is everyone else.
GM says the updated Kalos/Barina/Aveo hatch is a “completely reworked” model with an all-new exterior and a “high-class” interior.
Far from all-new, the exterior appears to bring a new front-end with a large, horizontally-split grille (complete with Chev bow-tie badge) and large, curved clear-lens headlights similar to those on the Epica medium sedan.
Australia’s Barina (read Aveo) currently offers a 77 kW/145 Nm 1.6 liter four cylinder, and it is unknown whether it will be joined by a new, more efficient 62 kW 1.2 liter petrol engine, which will be offered in Europe alongside the existing 73 kW 1.4 liter petrol four, mated to a four-speed auto. What will we get?
Although not released yet, the pundits are saying that this new hatch will give Chevrolet something to lure sales away from the Toyota Yaris and the (now aging) Honda Jazz.

Is your chauffeur awake?
The World Sleep Conference 07 has been held and the global experts warned that prolonged sleep depravation can lead to heart problems, diabetes, “burn out”, road accidents and even cancer.
You’ve all heard about a ‘good night’s sleep’ and the researchers really do believe in it. Professor Charles Czeisler of Boston’s Harvard Medical School said not sleeping for 24 hours slowed down reactions to the same extent as a 0.1 blood alcohol reading. “In Australia it is estimated that driver fatigue accounts for 20 percent of all crashes and 30 percent of all single-vehicle crashes here are thought to be related to driver fatigue,” he said.
Professor Czeisler continued, blaming ‘24/7 culture’ and modern work stresses for the problem. “There are individuals who are working long hours and then staying up all night playing video games or doing internet chatting,” he said. No wonder the sales of caffeine based boosters is so high. Check any taxi motorcycle stand, and then remember these are the guys you are handing your life and livelihood to!
So how much sleep should you be getting (and your taxi motorcycle rider)? According to the Professor, you need seven and a half hours every night. So, G’night. Sleep well!

Into RV’s? Try this one for size!
Our ‘Editor at large’, John Weinthal, sent over this photograph of the super RV, complete with its Mercedes runabout. This would have to be the ultimate in RV snobbery, and the item did mention the cost. Built in America (where else?), this super RV can be yours for only 2.5 million dollars. The price does not include the Mercedes.

Super RV

Try this for performance!
Zero to 100 kays is not the yardstick you need when dealing with supercars. It is zero to 200 miles per hour (320 kays) to sort the men from the boys. Yes, only in America could a magazine come up with such a comparison test, but Road and Track rose to the challenge. They took over the 15,550 foot runway of a US Navy air station in California and brought together six of the world’s fastest and rarest supercars to see how quickly they could get from a standing start to 200 mph. And the results were startling.
The first startle came with the Lamborghini Murcielago and the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. Their zero to 200 mph times were unrecordable! They couldn’t get there. Scratch two, only four left.
Next up was the Ruf 12, basically a Porsche Turbo on steroids. This rocketship took 35.5 seconds to reach 200 mph and according to the tester, it was a very comfortable drive. If you are not au fait with the Ruf name, Alois Ruf has been modifying Porsches for 33 years in the quaintly named Bavarian town of Pfaffenhausen. I have raced a Porsche Carrera against a Ruf Porsche and can only tell you what the rear end looks like. I didn’t get to see any more of the car.
Faster than the Ruf 12 was the Lingenfelter C6 Corvette. Similar to Alois Ruf, but on the left hand side of the Atlantic, John Lingenfelter has been taking US muscle cars and giving them even more muscle for 24 years. The Lingenfelter C6 Corvette has a 7.0 liter 650 kW V8 in the business end of the car and only took 26.5 seconds to get to 200 mph.
The Bugatti Veyron was next, and with 740 kW under the bonnet did zero to 200 mph in 24.2 seconds, which is around the time the company Daihatsu Mira takes to 100 kph.
The big winner had 814 kW and a V10 up front, showing there’s no substitute for cubic inches. This was the John Hennesy prepared V10 Dodge Viper which did the 0-200 mph in 20.3 seconds. Apparently, according to R&T, it will sit on 400 kph, and costs $300,000 ex-factory in Houston.
However, if you are looking at doing the ‘double ton’ on a budget, the Lingenfelter C6 Corvette will only set you back around $160,000. So, what will it be, Sir? One Viper or a pair of Corvettes?

What did we learn from the Belgian Grand Prix?
We learned that despite all the acrimony in the law courts, the drivers are still the best yardstick as to the competitiveness of the teams. Ferrari was way above McLaren, and Raikkonen was a worthy winner, not putting a wheel wrong for the entire race.
We also learned that behind the Kimi wooden face there is actually a ‘real’ person. The donut after the end of the race was a spontaneous display of high spirits and his reply, when questioned about it at the press conference, was even better. “I lost it,” said Kimi!
In a race where there was little to get excited about, it was good to see Webber (Red Bull), Kubica (BMW) and Sutil (Spyker) demonstrating that F1 drivers are able to think out passing maneuvers and make them happen. Sutil, in particular in the Spyker, was superb, up as high as 12th at one stage. A spirited drive from the youngster, and a star of the future.
What else? I am honestly surprised that Sir Frank Williams continues to soldier on with Alex Wurz. Undoubtedly he is a lovely chap, but that’s where it ends. His team mate Nico Rosberg saying after the race, “I am absolutely delighted with the result because today we were again the fourth placed team and it really shows that we are making progress from one race to the next. It’s also positive for me because a good car allows me to show what I can do and I am now collecting points consistently.” And Alex? “Starting from 15th on the grid was anything but ideal and it was terribly frustrating. But it was all uphill because we had some fuel pressure problems during the race. The problem got worse and worse, so I had to do an extra pit stop and try and recover fuel pressure, but it didn’t work, so the team called me in before things got worse. I think it is easy to understand why I am not happy with today’s result.” He’s not happy? Sir Frank hasn’t been happy all year, Alex!
The Japanese auto giants Toyota and Honda must be building portable ritual hara-kiri booths by this stage. Rubens Barrichello said it all, “This has been a pretty frustrating weekend for us because we have been struggling with the car from start to finish.” This is not the first season for these two teams and they are now consistent back markers. Time for a clear-out and start again, beginning with the drivers.
The next GP is at the Fuji circuit in Japan. A new venue for the current F1 circus. Let us hope we get a better race than that from Spa.